Returning for her third time as host, Kelly Clarkson was emceeing the show and kicked it off with a performance of Whitney Houston's "Higher Love" featuring Pentatonix and Sheila E.
Other performers throughout the evening included Alicia Keys, John Legend, Post Malone, Bad Bunny, Brandy, Ty Dolla $ign and Doja Cat.
Garth Brooks was honored with the elite ICON Award, presented to him by the one and only Cher ... while Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented Killer Mike with the first ever Billboard Change Maker Award, which he dedicated to his wife.
After the opening performance, there was zero applause. When Clarkson did her opening monologue, again, nothing. After Lil Nas X picked up the award for Top Hot 100 Song (above), there was no cheering.
We get it, there's no audience because it's a safety hazard amid the pandemic. And while viewers complained about the canned reactions on previous shows like the VMAs and Emmys, the BBMAs proved that maybe fake applause really was the way to go.
Clarkson even mentioned the silence later in the show. "There's no secret that there's no audience here tonight. I think we gathered that earlier when I was like woo and no one cheered with me," she joked. "So the producers and I were debating whether or not to have fake applause. I said, the only way I would agree to it is if I could control it, because I like control."
She then showed off a remote with laughs, cheers and even boos -- for "anytime Covid is mentioned because it sucks the life out of everything." Sadly, the remote never returned and the silences continued.
While there was not a mask to be seen in early appearances from Kelly Clarkson, Nicole Richie and Lil Nas X, that wasn't the case for Billie Eilish.
Picking up her first two awards of the night, the "bad guy" singer wore a green floral mask that matched the rest of her outfit. As she hit the stage the second time to accept Top Female Artist, she also told viewers, "Please vote, please wear a mask, please wash your hands, be safe and take care."
I have to say I appreciate how brief Billie is with speeches (since she’ll win multiple times). And that she is wearing a mask even while accepting the award. Model that good behavior girl. #BBMAs
Like Elish before her, Lizzo used her Top Song Sales Artist win to urge viewers to vote, celebrate body positivity and stand up against all forms of suppression.
"I've been thinking a lot of about suppression and the voices that refuse to be suppressed," she said, while wearing a dress covered with the word "VOTE."
"I wonder, would I be standing here right now if it weren't for the big Black women who refused to have their voices be suppressed?" she continued. "I just want to say right now, if you're at home watching this and you are thinking about changing yourself to feel worthy, this is your sign to remain true to who you are."
"When people try to suppress something, it's usually because that thing hold power. They're afraid of your power. There's power in who you are, there's power in your voice," she added. "Whether it's through music, protest or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice and refuse to be suppressed."
lizzo’s vote dress is iconic, make your voice heard bbs
John Legend Dedicates "Never Break" to Chrissy Teigen
John Legend returned to the stage following wife Chrissy Teigen's miscarriage in September.
The singer gave a soulful and emotional performance of his song "Never Break," saying "This is for Chrissy" before he began to play. With lyrics like, "We will never break, as the water rises and the mountains shake, our love will remain" and "Whenever life is hard, we'll never lose our way," it was a fitting and powerful song.
Host Clarkson also thanked the duo for being so open about their lives, even in tough times like these. "He and Chrissy both just have this warm way of inviting us into their world, the highs and the lows," she said. "My heart, obviously all of our hearts, go out to you both in this very difficult time."
I respect john legend and chrissy teigen so much like they are so strong to go through what they did. I admire their strength
The name on everybody's lip is gonna be Doja Cat after that performance.
The singer hit the stage for a rendition of "Juicy," "Say So" and "Like That" clearly inspired by the Broadway musical "Chicago" that set Twitter on fire. She looked amazing with some killer Fosse choreography, throwback costumes and, yes, even chair dancing.
The 74-year-old appeared during the telecast to present the Icon Award to Garth Brooks -- and while his performance was lively as ever, it was Cher who really got people talking for simply looking incredible.
Even Garth seemed a little starstruck by Cher, after winning the same trophy she picked up a few years back. "Cher, Getting to hold an award you got makes me feel cool, and cool is never a word I would use to describe me," he said, before thanking God, his wife Trisha Yearwood, his family and fans.
Cher’s legs look better than mine, love that for me
Demi always represents such important issues at the BBMAS from female empowerment, transgender rights, and our current political crisis and the importance of voting! She is so important for this generation #DemiOnBBMAspic.twitter.com/10TuoiZBZx